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A dressed-down dilemma:

How can you stop someone from repeating something they’ve said?  I don’t mean an old relative repeating themselves, I’m talking about co-workers or supervisors or officious bureaucrats who make a point one way, then make it another, then make it another way and so on.  I had a five minute conversation with a medical assistant last week that left me feeling like she thought I was a complete idiot.  I heard you the first time!


…and the second!  And the third!  And the fourth!

An old Army buddy of mine told me in his unit, or squad – or whatever their little grouping is called – platoon? – in that thing, they had a way of shutting down repetitive reiterators.  When the instruction or information is conveyed the First time, they made whatever noises of comprehension one usually makes, “Yes sir,” or “Yes ma’am,” or just “Got it.”

The Second time around, the would reply “Noted.”

The Third outbreak of elaboration would elicit “FUCKING NOTED.”

That usually did the trick.

Now of course you don’t get to do that with anyone but your closest friends and Army buddies, but it’s a fun story.

Your responses are, in descending order, “Got it” or its equivalent, then “Yes, of course, thank you”, then “Oh, I understand completely, thank you very much”, and finally, “Oh my word, yes, of course, I absolutely understand, and thank you so very much, it couldn’t be clearer, and I do mean it when I say thank you so much for helping me understand what is required and making it quite clear so I don’t make any mistakes.  Thank you, again.”

It is of paramount importance that this is all rendered in a kind, appreciative voice – one that borders on apologetic – as if you are so terribly, terribly sorry that you have inadvertently forced these people to repeat themselves so obviously.  This will obviously throw them off.  They’ll stop, and stumble over their own memory…Did I really just say the same essential thing three times to this otherwise rational and intelligent-looking person?  

When it sinks in what they’ve actually done, and what you’ve actually said, they’ll become aware of how irritating it is to be lectured at by strangers.  And if you play your cards right, it’ll happen to them in the middle of the night and they’ll lose sleep trying to thinking of snappy comebacks.  They’ll fail, of course, because you were unfailingly polite.

But you made your point.


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